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In a first in state history, college campuses kick off graduation season with virtual commencement ceremonies

In another fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and its devastating impact on education in California, several campuses around the state held commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020 on Saturday — for the first time in state history entirely online.

UC Berkeley and UC Merced, the only two University of California campuses on the semester system, became the first UC campuses to hold virtual commencement ceremonies on Saturday.  Some California State University campuses did so too, including San Diego State and Humboldt State University, in Arcata in the far north of the state.

The Cal commencement ceremony was the most elaborate — centered around an animated video based on the Minecraft videogame that was created by more than a hundred UC Berkeley students, complete with student avatars marching into Memorial Stadium to a recording of Pomp and Circumstance. Chancellor Carol Christ gave the commencement “address” in which she said students could not have imagined three months ago that they would be participating in graduation ceremonies “perhaps in your pajamas instead of a cap and gown.”

“The pandemic and its effects have been thrust upon us all, and the only thing in our power is how we choose to respond,” she said. “We can let these weighty circumstances hold us down, or we can decide to pick ourselves back up, to adapt, to push onward. Trials such as this are opportunities to cultivate habits of mind that will serve us for all time: courage, ingenuity, resilience, patience, humility, grace and gratitude.”

Several campuses held their ceremonies on Friday — notably the University of Southern California, Chico State and Woodland Community College, both in Northern California. Cal State San Marcos held a “drive by” graduation, in which students donned their caps and gowns, and drove through a designated route as faculty and staff cheered them on — and students got handed a provisional diploma on a tray as they drove by. Some 700 students participated. The university is promising to hold an in-person commencement ceremony whenever it is possible to do so

Numerous other virtual commencement ceremonies will be held ater this week, such as Laney College’s in Oakland on Thursday, and others during the weeks to come. UCLA’s ceremony will be on June 12, while San Francisco State’s will be on June 18.